The UK’s Conservative party has become divided over their Safety of Rwanda bill, which seeks to establish Rwanda as a “Safe Country” in order to allow for the deportation of illegal migrants in the UK to Rwanda.
Some MP’s have suggested amendments to the bill in order to toughen it up, some have suggested amendments to tone it down, and some have suggested amendments to alter language in order to avoid future legal battles.
We need to crack down on illegal migration and remove the loopholes being exploited by activist lawyers. It’s essential the legislation we are passing is watertight. That's why I am backing amendments to the Bill.https://t.co/Js0ANEBFNC
— Liz Truss (@trussliz) January 11, 2024
While the government has insisted that the legislation is “robust”, it stated it would “carefully consider” the amendments which have been put forward.
Amendments backed by former immigration minister Robert Jenrick seek to include language that would “prevent or delay the removal to Rwanda of an individual”. Presently, as legislation stands, the UK’s deportation plan is being bogged down by legal appeals and interim rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which state that the UK is breaching its obligations to human rights, on the grounds that Rwanda is not a safe country.
The Safety of Rwanda bill will establish, within UK law, that Rwanda is a safe country. However, Jenrick’s concern is that the deportation plans will instead be bogged down by individual appeals in a “merry-go-round” of appeals. The amendments backed by Jenrick will significantly limit the grounds on which individuals can appeal their deportation. Jenrick stated he believes the legislation as stands is “guaranteed to fail”.
Similarly, amendments backed by a number of MP’s seek to make the governments default position that MP’s would ignore any further injunctions by the ECHR to block flights.
The government has additionally insisted that the legislation as stands will also only allow for a “vanishingly small” number of appeals.
It is unclear if any of the proposed amendments will be implemented.
These divisions on the bill come as it is set to head to the Committee stage in the UK’s House of Commons next week on Tuesday. If it passes the remaining stages within the House of Commons (the committee stage, the reports stage, and then the 3rd reading), it is expected to have a difficult time in the House of Lords. The Conservatives in the House of Commons have an effective majority, meaning it is likely to pass there, however this is largely dependent on independent MP’s who usually vote with the government, and only a small amount of rebel conservative MP’s either abstaining or voting against the bill.
What is the UK’s Illegal Migration Plan
The flagship of PM Rishi Sunak’s “Stop the Boats” initiative, the UK’s illegal immigration bill seeks to deport illegal immigrants and illegal asylum seekers from the UK to a “safe third country”, who will host them. Initially the UK had been seeking out several partner nations to establish as one of these third countries, however Rwanda has been the only one established. Illegal migrants entering the country will be deported from the UK either to their country of origin, or to Rwanda, where they may reside.
Since it’s announcement and introduction into parliament, the plan has been fought by human rights groups, facing a number of challenges along the way. Many critics of the plan say it ignores the UK’s obligations under international law. In July 2023, however, the initial bill, the “Illegal Migration Act 2023”, passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent. Since it’s passage it has been marred by yet more legal challenges, before the UK Supreme Court in November declared the plan itself to be unlawful on the grounds that Rwanda did not qualify as a “safe country”, citing “substantial grounds for believing that asylum seekers would face a real risk of ill-treatment by reason of refoulement to their country of origin”.
On December 5th, 2023, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta and UK Home Secretary James Cleverly signed a new treaty in Kigali (Rwanda’s capital), which seeks to address the concerns brought by the UK’s supreme court by establishing legal provisions that guarantee people deported from the UK to Rwanda cannot be sent from Rwanda to another country. This treaty is the Safety of Rwanda bill which UK lawmakers voted in favour of on December 12th, in a 313-269 vote.